11 Oct 2016

NZ trying to be 'bigger person' in relationship with Fiji

2:07 pm on 11 October 2016

New Zealand is "highly likely" to host Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for an official visit the week after next, Prime Minister John Key says.

Frank Bainimarama

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Photo: Supplied

Mr Bainimarama will be in New Zealand to attend an All Blacks match, and Mr Key says they will probably have a formal meeting as well.

Mr Key visited Fiji in June, the first visit by a New Zealand prime minister in a decade.

During a banquet, the two leaders disagreed on a ban on some New Zealand journalists, and there were testy exchanges some months later over the arrest of an opposition MP in Fiji.

In September Mr Key said he was keeping a watch on the situation in Fiji and warned the government not to do anything "silly" after a Fijian MP and other political figures were arrested for holding a meeting without a permit.

Mr Bainimarama accused New Zealand of being "disrespectful" and "condescending", and having double standards on human rights.

However, Mr Key said New Zealand was always seeking to improve relations with Fiji, and was trying to be "the bigger person" in the relationship.

"That's the aim of putting our best foot forward in going to Fiji, and trying to be the bigger person in the relationship in a way, I suppose.

"I take it with a grain of salt with the fact with the speech that he made, outside that things were quite friendly, they are progressing."

Labour leader Andrew Little said there was still clearly a way to go.

"If you look what happened during John Key's visit, I don't think it was the way that the head of state should have treated our head or government but, you know, he's trying to prove a point to some his citizens."

But Mr Little said New Zealand must also be aware of countries like China seeking to increase their influence in the Pacific.

"We are a South Pacific country and we have our South Pacific neighbours, they particularly look to us for things like disaster relief. We've got to maintain relations with neighbours including Fiji if we're going to be effective in that regard."

Mr Bainimarama visited New Zealand before the 2014 Fiji election to drum up support among New Zealand-based Fijians, but this would be his first visit as Prime Minister.

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